No. 10: Black Sabbath, ‘Paranoid’– Top 100 Classic Rock Songs
To say Black Sabbath’s second album, ‘Paranoid,’ is influential is like saying the Beatles were a “pretty good band.” The 1970 LP basically created the template for heavy metal, what with the trifecta of ‘War Pigs,’ ‘Iron Man’ and the superlative title track.
By modern standards, the song ‘Paranoid’ is slow. However, its riffs rev like an idling car engine—an effect created because guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler play similar rhythms on the verses. The in-tandem playing creates a dense, methodical groove which is only enhanced because the pair also mirrors the beat-keeping of drummer Bill Ward.
In fact, the lack of complication on ‘Paranoid’ makes it that much more effective. Iommi’s detours from the main rhythmic pattern — and his brief, fuzzy, chugging solo—are economical, concentrated bursts of rock fury.
Butler’s lyrics are also relatively straightforward. The song’s protagonist, who’s recently become single, bemoans being unable to find joy or experience happiness. Whether that’s due to his own shortcomings — or a side effect of the fizzled romance — seems a moot point, judging by the concise lyrics: “And so as you hear these words / Telling you now of my state / I tell you to enjoy life / I wish I could but it’s too late.”
Of course, Ozzy Osbourne’s singing is the song’s dominant trait. Even today, his proto-punk yelp sounds like it’s from Mars, the copper-coated vocals somehow exhibiting melodic grace and slightly deranged undertones.
To this day, the first entry into the top bracket of our Top 100 Classic Rock Songs list, ‘Paranoid’ is beloved by genre heavyweights — so much so that luminaries such as Queens Of The Stone Age, Metallica, Green Day and Megadeth have covered it.
Watch Black Sabbath Perform ‘Paranoid’